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Welcome to Niger
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Niger is a landlocked nation that is located at the southeast of Algeria in Western Africa. The total area of the country is 1.267 million km2, and it has a population of 16,344,687 as of July 2012. The country’s climate is mainly desert-like except for the south which is tropical.
|The national flag of Niger.|
Image Credit: CIA Factbook.
Niger became an independent nation in 1960. The country is plagued by ethnic unrest, severe drought situations, and political instability, and is considered as one of the poorest countries in the world. The growing population is also adding to the country’s woes.
Niger’s economy relies on agriculture as it accounts for 40% of the GDP and provides an occupation for nearly 80% of the population. Majority of the government’s budget comes in the form of foreign aid. The GDP of Niger was $11.78 billion in 2011. Experts believe that Niger’s future growth can be well supported by exploiting its abundant natural resources.
The natural resources of Niger include uranium, coal, gold, iron ore, tin, phosphates, petroleum, molybdenum, salt, and gypsum. Niger has some of the largest uranium reserves in the world. It also has a good amount of oil reserves. Experts state that Niger’s exports are likely to expand significantly by year 2016.
Overview of Resources
In 2010, Niger was the fifth largest producer of uranium in the world and it accounted for about 7.8% of the world’s total production. However, the constantly fluctuating uranium price causes instability to Niger’s economy. The mining sector was also involved in the production of other mineral commodities such as coal, gold, silver, limestone, cement, gypsum, salt, and tin.
The map of Niger. Image Credit: CIA Factbook
The Samira Hill Mine was jointly owned by Semafo Inc. of Canada holding 80% interest and the government of Niger holding 20%. The Samira Hill Mine was the only industrial gold mining operation in the country. The gold produced from this mine was 1,596 kg in 2010 compared to 1,770 kg in 2009. Semafo claimed to have located two new gold zones, namely, the Libdorado Northwest and the Boulon Jounga North at Samira Hill.
Uranium production in Niger had increased by 29% to 4,198 t in 2010 from 3,243 t produced in 2009.
The Akouta underground uranium mine is operated by Compagnie Minière d’Akouta (COMINAK). This company is jointly owned by Areva Group, Overseas Uranium Resources Development Co. of Japan, ENUSA Industrias Avanzadas, S.A. of Spain, and the government of Niger.
The Arlit open pit uranium mine is operated by Société des Mines de l’Aïr (SOMAIR). This company is jointly owned by Areva Group and the government of Niger.
The Imouraren uranium deposit is considered to be of world-class standard. In 2010, Areva began developing a mine at Imouraren in which it planned to invest $1.6 billion. The mine would have a production capacity of 5,000 Mt/yr and is believed to have a life span of more than 35 years. Areva will begin production activities in 2013, and will be employing about 1400 people.
Several global mining companies are also conducting uranium exploration or mining activities in Niger. Some of them are listed below:
- Artemis Resources Ltd. of Australia
- Paladin Energy Ltd. of Australia
- Oklo Uranium Ltd. of Australia
- URU Metals Ltd. of South Africa
- Homeland Uranium Inc. of Canada
- Bayswater Uranium Corp. of Canada
- Orezone Gold Corp. of Canada
- Nuclear International Uranium Corp. of China.
Areva’s uranium project at Imouraren, Niger, is all set to begin production. The Imouraren uranium mine would be the biggest in Africa. Production is likely to double the current uranium production levels of the country. However, rebels are currently fighting with the government to have a share in the uranium wealth. Further hurdles that need to be tackled by the government and Areva are the local environmental activists who claim that the local people in Imouraren are being forcefully moved and the potential environment hazards that the mine would cause.
The government of Niger is keen on sorting out these issues and promoting uranium mining. It has claimed that the French company, Areva is its strategic partner in the development of the country’s uranium. The country has also signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and ensures safe usage of the uranium for nuclear energy.
Disclaimer: The Author of this article does not imply any investment recommendation and some content is speculative in nature. The Author is not affiliated in any way with any companies mentioned and all statistical information is publically available.